Himeji- Not bad...

Trip Start Jul 25, 2009
Trip End Mar 29, 2015

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Flag of Japan  , Kinki,
Tuesday, May 4, 2010

"The Flying Heron"

Himeji is one bitchin' castle. The city was quite a hike to get to…a Shink ticket back put me $120 in the hole.But still, it was worth it. Everyone has told me that "if you see any castle, it should be Himeji." Since it's 5-year renovatin had already started, where a scafolding would eventualy completely cover it, I thought it best to check it out while I was in the area.

About the renovations. Again, I'll comment on Japan's commitment to maintaining it's cultural heritage. They are pouring millions of dollars'-worth into taking every tile from its roof down, repainting/cleaning the original walls white, and replacing every single tile in it's original place after cleaning them, or restoring them. 5 years later, it will be unveiled again.

The thing about this castle that bothered me, was that although it has so many trap-doors, a tricksy and easy-to confuse layout, and layer upon layer of defensive walls, it was never tested out. I couldn't help but say "oh, if I were a soldier I'd almost wish for someone to try it". I know the stupidity of that statement, but it's like handing a toy to a kid and telling him he should't play with it.

Well, the tour guide kept saying how lucky they were that it was never attacked. I can understand why though…this castle was meant to defend.

The walls were made of white plaster, clay and sand mimxed with boiled rice water, that has stood for over 400 years, and is protected against fires. The stone walls, being built in the "random style", are shaped like fans as the larger square stones are piled on top of one another, giving it a 'trimmed' look.

The main keep is a trick in itself. Although it appears that there are 5 stories, somehow they are six stories and one basement inside. The two main pillars in the tower whose diameters are nearly one meter, make this a tough stronghold indeed.

Shaun Kerridge: Norimura Akamatsu, the ruler of the Harima District in Himeji, built a fort in 1333, and later, his son, along with others, maintained a fort in this area until eventually Terumasa Ikeda, son-in-law of the ShogunI eyas Tokogawa, moved into the castle to rule.

His annual salary, being 520,000 koku of rice (a sweet retirement fund, where 1 koku is 5 bushels of rice), funded this castle in 1660 and completed it by 1618.

Our guide was a sweet woman, who's name is on a business card I have somewhere, who used to teach English. She, among with most other people around here, do all of this voluntarilly. She told us all sorts of interesting stories about the castle, it's legends, and t's defences. I liked one in particular, Okiku's Well.

The story goes (according to her), that a servant was entrusted with the Lord's treasure-dishes. She lost a dish or something, and he threw her into the well after torturing her. So, she apparently moans every once in awhile. The story was meant to keep people away, because at the bottom of the well, there was a secret stone passage leading to an escape route. Not bad!

It was an exhausting day, but well worth the hike.
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